French Language Blog

The ABCs of French Slang: A Posted by on Apr 26, 2010 in Vocabulary


Like we saw before, idioms are among the first challenges in learning a new language, and surtout (especially) French. Another challenge, almost as unavoidable, when you try to actually go to the country, meet and talk with its people, is the slang of that country, or as it is called in French: l’argot.

L’argot is not necessarily le verlan (the “back slang”), which we talked about last time. In fact, there are many forms of l’argot. One of them, as we see in this video (“qui date un peu“, meaning a bit old), is l’argot des cités (suburbs slang), where many first- and second-generation French of Maghreb and African origin still live:

Understanding l’argot in general is also a must if you are a fan of le cinéma français -as previously pointed out by Jennie- where the employed language is not necessarily une langue châtiée (“polished” or refined language)… but quite to the contrary!

There are of course many dictionaries and references of French slang that are readily available in bookstores and even online with a free access, but the trouble with them is that they list way too many entries, to a point where any foreign reader would helplessly drown into them, completely at a loss as to which expression would actually be more important to learn and memorize than another.

La solution is now here: I am providing you with le strict minimum. The expressions argotiques or familières which you must know when you are surrounded by native French speakers. As a “useful” semi-side note, you will maybe be amused (or perhaps shocked, it depends) to learn that some French people often resort to slang when they do not wish to be understood by foreigners. Now that you’re armed with a minimal knowledge of l’argot, they will have to be extra-careful with you!

Needless to say, however, that you’ll learn here only the expressions that you need to know when you’re, shall we say, in a relatively “good social company”… Bien entendu (Of course.)

Aujourd’hui (today) we will cover the letter A.


* Accouche!
As in “Allez, accouche !” Meaning: “Confess”, or “spit it out!”  Often used when people urge you to finally reveal something to them. Or you may for example see it in a French movie scene, typically when a police interrogation of a suspect is conducted. Literally, it means: “Come on, give it birth!”  Close expressions with the same meaning as “to confess” is “passer aux aveux“, “lâcher le morceau“, or “passer à table.”

* Accro:
Meaning to be hooked on something, since it’s short for the verb accrocher (to hook something.) Example: “Elle est accro à la musique techtonique” (C’est quoi la ‘techtonique’, you may ask?)

* Allonger:
This one is rather “versatile”, and depends on the context of its use. The verb allonger means “to extend” or “to strech out.” So if you say “allonger une claque” or “un coup de poing”, it means to slap or punch someone, knocking them down. But you may also hear: “Allez, allonge-moi mon fric, mec!”, meaning “Come on, fork over my money, dude!”
As an adjectif, “être allongé” means to be dead. “Il a avalé son acte de naissance, et maintenant il est au jardin des allongés“, which literally means: “He ‘swallowed his birth certificate’, and now he’s at the garden of ‘the lying down’.” Quite charming of an expression, isn’t it?

This one definitely amuses me, because it reminds me of a childhood memory of my little brother. When he was very young, he used to call the show “Deux Flics à Miami” (“Two Cops in Miami”, which is the French title of  “Miami Vice”, featuring Don Johnson and Philip M. Thomas) “Deux Flics Ami-Ami”, which means word-for-word “two cops friend-friend”, but it in fact means to be reconciled after a fight.
Bon, on fait ami-ami, on enterre la hache de guerre, et on fume le calumet de la paix?” The translation of which is: “So, we become friends again, we bury the hatchet, and smoke the peace pipe?”
For a (very) little idea of what “Miami Vice” may sound when dubbed in French, here’s an example (It’s funny that the scene starts with “Croissants” and a French flag…)

Now, let’s “cut down to the chase”:

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